Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas traditions, squirrels, sledding...memories for a lifetime

Hey peeps—

Every year when the children come home from school, on the day before their Christmas break begins, I give them the same lecture.  It is entitled, "Christmas Energy: How to use it for good, and not make your mother want to go stay at the Westin". 

All of our kids are running on "Christmas Energy" as the big day has come and gone.  We've attended recitals, Christmas concerts, parties and various other events to celebrate the holiday.  But nothing compares to spending the day or two before Christmas together.  We bake, drink hot coco by the tree, play games, go swimming, watch Christmas movies, and attend our church's Christmas Eve service.   I have to be honest and say that all that togetherness doesn't quite line up with the Norman Rockwell picture I just painted for you.  Interspersed in all that sweet family time are fights, unnecessary touching, distinct odors, and complaints about why I didn't have time to make cookies for Santa.    

I had to forego some of the baking this year in order to go get my hair done.  The kids and I could have made a lot of cookies in those two hours while my roots were baking, but my hair needed attention more than the children did.   Besides isn't there some saying about mothers and their hair, like "if mom's hair doesn't look pretty, then Christmas is ruined"?  I may not be quoting it exactly right, but it goes something like that. 

Christmas day was different for us this year, as we spent the holiday together, with no extended family in town to visit.   A few weeks ago I decided to take advantage of the fact that we weren't having visitors and decided we needed to do something fun and different on Christmas Day.  Billy agreed, and we decided we'd take the kids to Estes Park for the evening and spend the 26th at the sledding hill in Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park!  What fun!  What merriment!  What a brilliant idea!

After opening gifts on Christmas morning, and eating the traditional monkey bread (and regretting it) we busied ourselves to get ready to head out for a night in the mountains.  Wow.  You would not even believe how much crap six people need for one night away.  The snow pants and boots alone took up the whole back of the car.  Finding gloves that fit (and matched), hats, scarves, and other warm gear had me using what Billy calls "my intense tone of voice".  The kids agreed.  I spoke intensely. 

We ate lunch, cleaned up, took care of our pets, gathered the library books, because A. why wouldn't we drop them off on Christmas Day on our way out of town and B. they were probably incurring a large fine and threatening our credit score.  So books dropped, and we were off. 

At this point, driving up Sheridan, the energy in the car was happy.  The kids had some new things with them, such as warm blankets and books, and Billy and I were ready for a nice drive up to the mountains.  Right about the second I decided to relax, a squirrel ran out in the road.  And as they often do, the little guy changed his mind at the last minute, just in time for Billy to run him over.  We all felt the tiny bump and screamed.  Faith looked back to assess the damage and yelled, "Don't worry Daddy!  He's not dead!  He can't get up, but he isn't dead!" 

We all felt terrible for the little guy, and like any dysfunctional family who can't cope with raw emotion, we began to make fun of Billy for maiming a squirrel on Christmas.  His only consolation was that someone likely came and "finished the job" shortly after us.

Once we arrived in beautiful Estes Park, I realized a grand error in my plans.  Nothing was open for dinner on Christmas so finding food for the evening was going to be tricky.  We drove around town trying to find anything open and ended up by the Stanley Hotel.  The kids began to panic a bit, knowing there's just something very creepy about that place, but not really knowing why.  And again, as parents with a twisted sense of humor, Billy and I fed off their fear.  Will asked, "Um, guys, why are we here?   We aren't staying at the Stanley Hotel are we?"  Billy replied, "Oh yeah, mom checked and there was a mix up with the room we had reserved and this is the only place left in town with any available rooms".  Will was traumatized by this comment, even more than the squirrel incident so I decided not to draw this joke out.  I assured him we were kidding and all he could say was, "You guys are so mean.". 

Don't worry, we made up for our sick Stanley Hotel joke by feeding the kids dinner from the deli at Safeway.  No, really, we did.  It was the only place opened on Christmas so we loaded up on a variety of food items.  There was microwaveable lasagna, chicken fingers, hoagies, salads to go, mac and cheese, and even some fruit to balance out the Christmas Dinner faire.  We headed to the hotel with our goods, checked in, and did what people who don't have cable do:  Flipped on the tv and searched for HGtv.   We ate our fatty food and channel surfed, all the while Little Miss Sass kept asking, "We go swimming?  We go swimming?" 

At this point there was a blizzard outside, so who wouldn't want to put a swimsuit on and traipse downstairs to the indoor pool and hot tub?  Despite the cold, this turned out to be super fun, as all four kids swam while Billy played with them in the pool.  I sat nearby in the hot tub thanking God for a husband who doesn't make me swim with the children.  After all the fun, it was back to the room for more cable.  Little Miss Sass went down in her crib without a fuss, and all 6 of dozed off together to pretty much the end of what was a wonderful day. 

But guess what?  The fun doesn't stop there!  We woke up this very morning with high expectations for joyful memories and a free continental breakfast.  Memories were made, however, we did have to get Egg McMuffins at McDonalds.  Oh well, you can't have it all right?  Next on our agenda was to drive into Rocky Mountain National Park to the sledding hill.  While we drove, we all chose the part about the drive that was most pretty.  Faith and I loved the trees.  Billy loved it all.  Jack was miserable, and Will was just excited to sled.  Little Miss just repeated what everyone else said.  We arrived at the hill and all began to put on our snow gear.  Four hours later we piled out of the car and tried to walk with 3 sleds, a toddler, a grumpy teenager, and Billy in a giant green hat.  Billy fell while carrying the toddler.  The teenager almost turned back before getting to the top, and Faith and I kept complaining that our snow pants wouldn't stay up.  However, we all made it to the top of the hill triumphantly and began to sled! 

Little Miss Sass rode with me, and laughed the whole way down.  Jack and Faith went about four times each before heading down to the warming room, and Will found his groove with a jump and was in sledding heaven.  Billy and I took turns carrying Little Sass up the long hill, and tried not to have a stroke from our poor oxygen choices.  After quite some time, the four of us called it good and went to warm up too. 

We drove home together, talking a million miles a minute about the fun we'd had, while eating our Safeway deli foods for lunch too.  The kids were all satisfied, and despite earlier complaints, the energy in the car was happy and content. 

When we arrived home, I used my "intense tone" again unfortunately, in order to get the kids to help us unpack, and by the time I realized how unpleasant I can be, we were all done and the kids were ready to enjoy their new Christmas gifts.  I did laundry, and paid bills while Billy did whatever it is he does, usually involving a guitar pedal or his iPhone.   After dinner, we convened once more to the Christmas tree for a family game.   The boys beat us girls, but nobody cared.  It was all good fun, and a beautiful way to end a few days of peace and joy together as a family. 

Getting ready for Christmas is a lot of work.  Going away for one night takes even more effort.  But the ultimate outcome of being together, making memories, and working at it all is worth every second of being part of a family.  Before I know it these days shall pass and our kids will be making new memories with their own kids.  I don't want to ever look back and regret not trying, or facing challenges head on, or staying home when we could be on an adventure. For as long as we can, I want to live life to the fullest, and love those entrusted to me to the best of my ability.  God knows, oh He knows so well, how very flawed and harsh I can be.  But He also knows my heart.  And He continues to award me time and fresh starts with each new day.  How beautiful His gifts to us, and how thankful I am that He didn't stay a small baby lying in a manger.  Yet He became a man, endured a cross, and gave me a gift I could never repay.  What a wonderful Christmas holiday, one I will never forget.  I am thankful for God is so good. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Knee Deep in a Season

Hey Peeps—

Sadly we must say goodbye to our Indian summer, and say hello to our cold, windy, Arctic blast of winter.  I just got back from a 2 hour quest to find warm boots.  I was unsuccessful.  Naturally I turned to the left over Halloween candy to comfort myself. 

The last month or so was a whirlwind of activity and excitement.  Our very dear friends Grace and Josh were married and we were blessed to be part of the joyous event.  Normally our October is filled with a flurry of sports, never-ending homework, and other activities of daily living.  This year, October was more than a month of running from here to there.  It was a season of abundance and festivity.  A season of beauty from ashes.  A season of love and redemption. 

And as time moves on, life ebbs and flows with the good and bad.  The easy and the hard.  The ample and the depleted.  Thankfully we are still relishing in the fruit of October as November has delivered a whole new set of challenges.  Ear infections and respiratory viruses have knocked each one of us down, and even in the midst of all our coughing and excess mucus, Billy had surgery on his knee for a torn meniscus. 

On the day of surgery I had to work, so my dad graciously offered to take Billy to the appointment.  By the time my dad picked Billy up, it had been over 15 hours since he'd eaten.  Hard on a guy who is built like a rhino, am I right?  I reminded my dad to not talk about pie as they drove over to the surgery center.  Billy texted me from work to let me know his name had been called and he was going back.  I responded with "I guess this is goodbye".  In hindsight, I might have chosen something a little less "final" and something a little more "loving". 

After work, Little Sass and I made our way to the surgery center.  Billy had texted that he was out and in recovery.  As we walked in, all I wanted was to see Billy's face and make sure he was alive and well.  But first I had to stop at the front desk and pay.  While there, I saw the sign that said "if you are coughing, wear a mask".  There was no way to stifle the upper respiratory infection invading my body at the moment, so I asked for a mask.  As I donned the blue mask, Little Sass looked at me, mesmerized, and asked as plain as day, "You a Doctor, Mom?" 

We walked back to find our Billy/Daddy laying comfortably in a recliner.  He didn't look dead, which was a relief, and woke up as I kissed him on the head.  And as simple as that, they discharged him to go home.

The first few days after surgery were rough.  I had to work, and while I try to be a great nurse for my patients, I'm not always the most compassionate person for my family.  (I know.  Shocker) Also, I'd been sick so hadn't planned meals well.  Poor Billy ate quite a bit of fast food those first few days of healing…not to mention I left him in charge of our kids on his second full day of recovery while I worked.  About an hour into my shift I received this text: "Z (aka Little Sass) hit my surgery knee twice.  On purpose.  Daddy Angry".  My response, "Dear Lord.  Groan.  Amen". 

Now that we are almost a week out, I'm happy to report my patient is making huge improvements every day.  His body is healing and he is back in the lead, guiding this crazy train.  I've noticed the 6 of us work just a little better when Billy is operating the heavy machinery. 

Seasons come and seasons go.  Some are warm and fulfilling.  Some are cold, and painful.  And some seasons are a combination of all the satisfying and the crummy stuff that life brings.  When things were tough this past week, I found myself fighting the urge to have a pity party.  At these points in time, I remember that the mind is a battlefield and I have a choice to make.  My norm:  run like a barn sour horse into a world of negativity.  Fixating on how frustrated I feel seems easier than casting my thoughts to the reality of the blessings covering every inch of my life. So I deliberately and precisely choose to see the Divine.

This Thanksgiving Season, I will take captive my thoughts and hand them over to the God who sustains me.  I will wake up and remember all the ways that He never fails. I will intentionally articulate the gratitude for the good things in my life like a roof over my head, a fridge full of food, and the surrounding love from friends and family. 

Sometimes all you can do in a season is decide to focus on what matters most.  Stop trying with all your might to figure it out, and don't be afraid to ask God for an extra dose of courage to get out of bed and face it all over again.  Don’t curse the day, but instead express a thankful heart for the air you breathe.   Walk through it if you can and crawl if you can't.   And never stop asking God to be the source of all your strength.  

Faith + Hope = Perseverance.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A miracle of Mercy

Hey Peeps—

Between Ebola and the whole horrible awful ISIS situation, it's hard to find any good news, isn't it?  Sometimes the outlook is downright dark and depressing.  Last night got so rough, I ate enough candy corn to make sores on my tongue. But rest assured, my hope has been restored.  Just when I began to question everything about human nature and what murky souls we have, my two year old woke up and told us, "I clean up my wegos today", and once again, my hope in humanity was restored. 

Right before dinnertime last night, I asked Little Sass what I felt like was a simple request.  "Let's clean up your legos before we take our bath and have dinner, okay?"  The response was surprising.  And on-going.   After two hours of screaming, throwing legos, and open defiance, one would hope the situation would take a turn for the better.   It did not.   It became an all out battle between she and I, and in the end neither of us won.  She went to bed without her beloved blankey, and I went to bed hoping and praying my "methods" would work. 

Several years ago we loved the show "Supernanny".  Nanny Jo Jo always went to homes with strong willed children, and the 5 of us would sit and watch, munching our popcorn and laughing at how trying the situations became.  I'm not laughing anymore.  And in my not laughing state of mind, I am desperately remembering one of the most important things Jo Jo would say to the families who were struggling.  "Consistency is key.  Follow through with expectations and give consequences when necessary".  So last night Little Sass lost her blankey.  She also did not get a song or a story.  I did hug her and tell her I loved her, and when she began kicking me, I put her down and walked away.  And I wondered if either of us were going to see the light of day. 

In Lamentations, there is a verse that talks about God's mercies being new every morning.  I went to bed certain I would wake up with old mercy--crinkled, feeble,  dried up mercy, and my usual "half-full" glass was about as empty as ever when my head finally hit the pillow.  My sleep was fitful and restless.  During the wee hours of the morning, Little Sass began to cry.  What started out as a cry turned to wailing.  And then she began calling for me.   "Mama! Mama!"  I could not lie there and ignore that.  This child has been my daughter for less than 7 months, and yet she knows her mom has a role to fulfill.   

I brought her to my bed and we cuddled.   She snuggled up next to me and her body was still.  At first she just laid next to me.  We both tried to sleep.  Every few minutes her body would move, and she had to have at least some part of herself touching me.  Her head found the crook in my neck and settled there for a time.  Then she moved, and her feet lay on my stomach.  Finally, after an hour of trying to rest next to me, I told her she could get right where she had wanted to be.   She sprawled her body on my chest and every inch of her was covering me.  I tenderly rubbed her back, her legs, her arms, her chest, and her cheeks.  In minutes she was asleep. All the stress from the previous hours was gone, and I relished the moment.  And as promised, my new mercy had arrived as the sun rose, and I closed my eyes for a few more minutes of peaceful, God-given rest. 

About 6:30 am Billy came in the room to get ready for the day.  He'd been up for a couple hours and didn't know she was with me.  She woke up and saw her daddy, and the first thing she told him was "I clean my wegos today".  This was unprompted and a complete surprise.   After she ate her breakfast Billy took her upstairs, and gently asked her to pick up her legos.  She began to put them away.  I listened to the clinking of the legos as they went in one by one, and almost cried.  When she was done, she proudly came out of her room and asked me to "come wook Mom!" 

With enthusiasm, I followed her upstairs!  Not one lego remained on her floor!  I exclaimed how proud I was of her for obeying.  I told her thank you!  I hugged her and said it all over again and again!  She had obeyed!  Our sad, hard, dark night had been redeemed.  New mercy had fallen fresh, and I know with all that is in me, God had worked in her little heart to help her choose obedience. 

Today I needed a miracle, and today I got a miracle.  At first I thought the miracle was about my 2 year old cleaning up her legos.  Then it hit me.  The miracle wasn’t a clean floor.  The miracle was that even in her hurt, my little girl called for me in her sadness and knew she could trust me enough to rest in my arms, though she had been angry the night before.  The miracle is that love knows no bounds, and that when you open your heart, amazing things happen.  The miracle is that even a two year old has the capacity to forgive, trust, learn and love.  The miracle is mercy and hope abound.  Thank You God for today and the abundance of miracles when I choose to open my eyes. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Ministry of Mothering

Hey Peeps—

People often ask me, in a roundabout way, if I feel the same way about my adopted kids as I do about my biological kids.  I can't blame them for asking.  Sometimes, just to mess with them, I explain that we give the adopted kids more chores on Saturday, and that the biological kids get larger portions of dessert.  This always ends with an uncomfortable moment of silence, averted eyes, and instant regret on my part.  Sort of like right now. 

Anyway,  the most recent addition to our family came at 2 years old, about 6 months ago.  At this point we are still "foster" parents, but the minute she entered our home, we have known she is our daughter.   I don't want to ever pretend that the unfolding story is easy, but it is a miracle.   From day one, we hoped and prayed that she would bond and attach to us.  This is a long process, and while we see so much growth, we know we have much work ahead.   We are always questioning if we are doing everything we can to ensure our Little Sass knows through and through that she belongs.   

Today I had that moment when I knew I loved her as much as any of my children.  We were sitting waiting for Will, when a little girl, maybe 2 years old came running up to Little Sass.  Little Sass thought it was her lucky day and that she was going to have a new bestie!  She held her arms out to hug the kindred stranger and as the little girl approached, she put her arms out directly in front of her, and pushed Little Sass square in the chest, causing her to fall to the ground.  I was there in an instant, but not before the little girl grabbed my baby on the arms and started pinching. 

Oh my goodness the feelings of rage that I stifled…

Then the mother decided to come over with her little girl to make things right.  I was thinking, "Okay, she's doing the right thing.  Let her help her daughter make this a teachable moment.  Don't go crazy and say things that you will regret.  Seriously, Lisa.  Lock it down".  Little Sass sat as close to me as she possibly could, leery of the intentions of her new best friend.  The little girl came right up to us with her mother, and hit my daughter.  Then she pinched her arms.  At that point I was done.  D.O.N.E.  I put my hands out to block the little monster child and her mother said, "Okay, I think we'll go away now".   There was not even an apology.  Nor was there any acknowledgement that she is raising a strong willed child who sometimes makes bad choices.  Nothing.  Just walked off and left us both feeling completely shocked at the previous couple of minutes.

Two other parents were standing nearby and looked on in amazement, which made me feel a little less crazy.  We all laughed that awkward sort of,  "Ha ha, can you believe that?  Boy I sure didn't see that coming".  In reality, I wanted to walk over to the lady and say something to the effect of, "Hey I get it.  I am raising a strong willed child too, but rather than pretend she is perfect, I actually work very hard to discipline her with love and healthy boundaries.".  And then in my imaginary confrontation I accidentally call her a jerk.  But I feel bad about even imagining that. 

I'm so flawed.  Right about the time I got all high and mighty about how Little Sass was treated, she decided to hate the dinner I served her.  Her rejection was akin to the previous scene of a little girl putting both arms up to knock over everything in her path.  We went on to battle for about an hour, she and I, while the other children watched in amazement at the strength of wills.  At one point, I thanked them all for being compliant toddlers, but did say, even with all Little Sass is putting me through, her strong spirit and challenging times are part of who God has made her to be.  

By the end of our battle, she was crying in my arms, head on my chest, with quite a bit of snot pouring out on my white shirt.  She knew she was loved and her needs would be met.  But she also verbalized her apologies.  I may be na├»ve, but I think she even learned a lesson.  However don't hold me to that tomorrow night when I offer quinoa with chicken again. 

Isn't it ironic it takes your very own child to teach you that judging others might not be such a good idea?  Who knows what that mom was dealing with today, when her child acted out on Little Sass.  Maybe she was at her wits end, just like I was after dinner tonight.  Maybe she feels alone and doesn't have any support.  Maybe she feels like it’s a lost cause.  Maybe she was just simply embarrassed.  Whatever it was doesn't even matter now.  The take away for me today was how happy I felt about how protective and angry I felt when my little girl was bullied.  That mother instinct was as real today as it ever has been, and I am so grateful to be able to not just SAY I love her.  But I KNOW I love her. 

Love means you take action to protect.  Love is putting someone else's needs before your own.  Love is sacrifice.  Love is laying down your own life for another.  Some times love really hurts.  What a gift to be called to relinquish this kind of love.  I am humbled by this job title, "Mom" because there has been nothing else on the earth that could teach me as much as it has.  Oddly it's a ministry of sorts, but one that leaves me the blessed, the transformed, the forgiven, and always covered in grace. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tough Mudder...God's grace!

Hey Peeps—

I hate when I have to wear long underwear before September 15th.  I also hate using my furnace one day, and then AC the next.  You would think as a native of Colorado I would have come to terms with all this.  I guess that's how we roll here in the Centennial State, is it not?

Just curious, have you ever heard of The Tough Mudder?   It's a crazy 11 mile race, full of obstacles meant to make you weep like a tiny helpless baby.  All proceeds go to the Wounded Warrior Project, and has contributed over 6 million dollars, according to  The values of the Tough Mudder focus on conquering challenges, and teamwork, not just running a race getting and achieving a new PR.

For some odd reason, Billy got it in his head to try and run the Mudder.  Our good friend Grace had already done one a couple years ago, so Billy enlisted she and Josh to join him in the "fun".  I knew I would not be running alongside them in the actual race, but I wasn’t' about to let Billy go and get in shape without me. 

For several months leading up to the Mudder, we trained in a variety of ways…swimming, running, lifting weights, hiking, and best of all… running the stairs.  Billy, Grace, Josh, and I decided the stairs would be a great way to get in shape.  Three of us regretted our decision the first time we ran the stairs with Grace.  If you have ever worked out with my friend Grace, you know what I'm talking about.  The woman is strong, able, determined, and not easily startled.  She could literally carry another adult up and down the Grand Canyon on her back if she wanted to.  So once we hit the stairs with Grace, we knew it was time to get serious.  She had us skipping stairs, running them sideways, doing squats on them, near, them, and over them.  One time she caught Billy and Josh quoting funny movie lines, so she made them run up backwards, blindfolded, while holding hands.  By the end of August all four of us were skilled stair runners, blowing away all the other pseudo athletes in their fancy active gear, as we glistened by them like young gazelles prancing across the African Savannah.  (This is all mostly lies, but we did manage to get in shape, thanks to Grace).

Finally the big day was almost here!  We dropped 3 of the 4 kids off at friends, and made our way up the mountain with Little Miss Sassy Pants in the backseat.  I drove as Billy tried to sleep in order to prepare for the big race less than 24 hours away.  Little Sass took this time to sing, kick the back of my seat, and scream for us to acknowledge her.  Needless to say, his nap turned into a lengthy discussion entitled, "Compliancy in a 2 year old: Darn near impossible".

Hey, did you know Snowmass is five hours from Denver?  We sure didn't.  But boy after driving 5 hours, it makes you appreciate the mountains right on the edge of town.  Grace and Josh arrived at the same time, and we all stumbled around in the dark trying to find our condo.  Grace used her key in the wrong door, and after some large, possibly inebriated men opened the door to four road weary travelers, and one perky 2 year old, they decided to not kill us, but rather redirected us to our door.  Finally we arrived, and although we were excited, we hit the hay as our racers were starting in one of the first heats.

The next morning all 3 of them were keyed up and ready to go. They had coordinated shirts, and gloves for all the obstacles their bodies were about to endure.  Billy's knees were wrapped and ready to go.  They ate just enough to not throw up, and made their way down the hill to Snowmass Village while Little Sass and I took our time getting down to the spectator section to take it all in. 

The Tough Mudder race was completely packed.  Thousands of people were there to  participate.  Little Sass and I found a map and went to the first obstacle where we could observe the racers.  It was called, "Balls to the Walls".  We sat there for an hour watching people scramble up a rope and over a wall.  Some had mad skills, and some needed help from their team.  We got restless there so we made our way to the gondola to another event and with hopes to spot our crew.  Side note:  have you ever tried to take a 2 year old in a jogging stroller up a mountain?  You should.  It's super fun.

As Little Sass and I got off the gondola, I prayed that we could just enjoy the day, whether or not we ever saw Billy, Grace, and Josh.  I'd wanted to see them so much, but there were so many people, and I was dealing with a toddler who happens to be very much in touch with her superego.   Right about the time I'd resigned myself to not seeing them, we spotted our racers!  They were still upright, cheerful, and none of them were on a stretcher.  They were halfway done and in great spirits!  We watched them climb over and under huge tubes, called "Ram's Horn".  When they made their way up the mountainside, we headed to "Everest"— a warped wall about 15 feet high meant to destroy all knee ligaments and twist unsupported ankles.  We saw several folks call for a medic, and others sprinted up as if they'd been running up warped walls in their sleep.  Little Sass decided it was boring so we headed down the hill to the last event, "Electroshock Therapy".  As you can imagine, it was entertaining.  We saw quite a few folks fall over each other, as the electrical shocks ran through their fatigued bodies.  Much to my delight, our bone-tired, and somewhat drooping racers showed up at the finish line.  Little Sass watched her dad run through a field of electrodes like a real man, and stood to receive his headband that declared him a "Tough Mudder".  Billy, Grace, and Josh had done it!  All three were exhausted but elated to be done.  I was so excited to see them alive, and loved hearing all the details of their day from climbing over muddy walls, to jumping into ice water (aka "the Arctic Enema").  Billy said it was one of the happiest days of his life.  I was so proud that he'd finished, and so happy that it was such a fun experience with our friends. 

It was an amazing experience, and Billy has set the goal to conquer it again!  For me, it was more than just a fun time away with friends.  I enjoyed God's amazing creation, my one on one time with Little Sass, and relished the time to be present in the moment.   Like my friend Chris said today in church, our lives are saturated with grace.  Tomorrow might not be as exciting as yesterday, but nonetheless, we are blessed by grace.  Saved by grace.  Evidence of grace.  And God is always good.   

Friday, August 22, 2014

Firsts...and other life lessons

Hey Peeps—

I pride myself in being a life long learner.  I learned that term in Nursing school a couple years ago, and thought it sounded smart, so I try to work it into conversations whenever possible.  For instance, today I learned that when you eat a whole box of Milk duds, the size you take to the movies to share with a family of 6, but this time you eat it all by yourself in a dark room to comfort yourself, the next day there will be repercussions.  Of the gastrointestinal kind. 

You might be wondering why I needed to comfort myself with food.  You also might not care, and if that's the case, please don't tell me.  It might hurt my feelings so much that I'll eat the Junior Mints next.  I swear I will.  I’m almost embarrassed to admit what had me in an eating frenzy last night.  A lot of moms I know were thrilled to send their kids back to school and regain their freedom once again.  Not this mom.  I've been dreading the day all summer, and today it finally arrived. 

Now it hasn't always been this way.  Several years back, when Jack was in 1st. grade, and had more energy than a rabid rotweiller, and two other little babies were barely out of diapers, then I was sort of glad to have a safe place to send Jack for several hours a day.  I felt guilty for being glad though.  That's how people pleasers have to justify everything.  If they admit to being happy then they have to equally feel guilty about it too.  (Who knew you were gonna get a lesson in abnormal psychology today? You are welcome)

Anywho. Today we drove our sweet children off to school once again.  They knew the drill.  This day we weren't just going to drop them on the curb and head out for a mani pedi.  No, this is the day we all walk in together.  Faith immediately ran to the wall where 6th grade lines up and pretended not to know us.  Will allowed us to watch him play tetherball, but not cheer for him loudly or give him any tethering kind of pointers.  We said hi to other parents and I held back tears when I hugged a few of them, knowing this day is just as hard for them as it was for us.  Faith did end up wandering over to us with her friends, not to really acknowledge us, but more to let us know she was doing okay. We were so glad to see her pretty face one more time before she headed in to begin her new year.  The dreaded whistle blew and it was time to line up. 

At this point in the day, since Will was in kindergarten, I would be full blown in tears.  Not the ugly cry with snot pouring out of my nose, mind you, but the kind that feels like my throat is closing and I'm going to choke back a huge sob that might come out like, "No!  My babies!  No!  Stop growing up this instant!".  Thankfully I never screamed that out loud, but for the grace of God.  This year, this year as my youngest son lined up for 4th grade, something strange happened.  I didn't cry.  I didn't even feel like I was going to cry.  I felt sad to say goodbye, but not the kind of sad where you feel like you can't breathe.  I looked over at Billy and he was smiling too.  And in his arms was our 2 year old Little Miss Sassy Pants, wriggling around yelling "bye" to Will and taking it all in. 

We walked to our car, drove home, sent Billy off to work, and set about to do our day.  The house was peaceful, but not silent.  There was just enough noise to remind me I wasn't alone, and even though my heart was sad, it was also full of gratitude.   I worked downstairs doing laundry and paying bills, all the while my heart sang for joy at the sounds of a little girl up in her room playing quietly with Legos.  Later when she came downstairs to check out what I was doing, she saw her siblings pictures on the computer.  She began to ohhhh and ahhhh at their faces, and said out loud, "Will wuv me.  Faif wuv me.  Oh my Dackie!"  She knows she belongs, and she knows she is loved. 

By the time Little Miss woke up from her nap it was time to go and pick the kids up.  She knew it too.  She woke up asking for them.  We jumped in the car and couldn't wait to see their sweet faces.  First Jack arrived and then Faith and Will.  The reports of the day were wonderful, as we listened and asked questions.   They told us about their funny teachers and about being a friend to the new kid.  Will mentioned he was using a plastic Target bag for a lunchbox, and Faith told me I forgot some important paperwork.  Dear Lord, I'll never have it all together, but none of that stuff matters.     All that matters is we have four kids that know they are loved.  We have four kids that know their identity.  We have four kids that are striving to grow in character and grace, as their mom and dad give them ample opportunities to learn the meaning of forgiveness.  We have four kids that won't be home forever, but tonight they are.  And for that, we give thanks to God. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Goodbye to dead frogs, cousins, rooms, cribs...

Hey Peeps—

Oddly enough a frog that has been decomposing for a year under a bookshelf emits no odor.  We assumed at some point the aforementioned frog location would become obvious, and naturally we would give him a proper burial.  They say time heals all wounds.  I guess that's true, because when Jack and Will found the dead frog yesterday, nobody shed a tear.  In fact there was laughter, but don't tell PETA.  The last thing I need is them breathing down my neck. 

Dead frogs aren't the only situation I've been dealing with around here.  Thankfully, Billy and Jack arrived back home safely from a mission trip to Cozumel, after I managed to hold down the fort with the other three children.  We did make our usual, "Dad's out of town so let's take our new toddler to the hospital so that she won't die" trip while they were away.  Everything is fine, however, Billy is NOT allowed to leave town for at least 10 years.  And now that our travels and free-for-all summer activities are over, real life has kicked into high gear.

As we have been feverishly preparing for the upcoming school year, sadly we sent our nephew Taylor back to Missouri to finish his last year of college.  All of us hated to see him drive away.  I'll miss everything about him, except watching him eating all the Chobani, and the hair he left in the kid's bathtub.  Those two things I could live without.  But time marches on, and we had to let him go.  Will was not as sad to say goodbye, because the minute Taylor drove away, his plan could finally come to fruition.  It was time to move down to the basement and turn it into the "Bat Cave". 

That very afternoon we watched Taylor drive into the sunset, Will began working on his grand plan.  He began clearing his treasured possessions out of the room he's shared with his brother since birth, and took them to his new headquarters.  Jack pretended not to care, and even helped clean out their room.  There were some arguments about who owned the boom box, and who got all the Lemony Snicket books.   After several days the room was set up to Will's satisfaction, and I asked him when he was going to make the big move and actually begin sleeping down there.  He said, "In 5 days mom".  When the 5 days were up I asked again, not because I want him to go, but because all of his personal belongings are down there and I'm tired of him asking me if I have any of his clean underwear in my room.  (I don't.  It's MY room.  Where I keep MY stuff.) 

Two nights ago as I was tucking Will in bed, I broached the subject of his move once again.  This time I asked if he wanted to change his mind.  With tears in his eyes, he asked me, "Do I have a choice?"  Oh my gosh that just about broke my heart.  I told him of course he could change his mind and that we all want him upstairs with us for as long as he wants to be up here.  We talked about how he could keep the "Bat Cave" set up as he likes it, sort of as an escape when he needs to just be alone.  He gave me the biggest hug and said he was going to think about it.  

Taylor departing and Will's possible move aren't the only major adjustments we've had at the Repenning Manor.  The other morning I went in to get Little Miss Sassy Pants up and caught her straddling the crib.  She looked so guilty as I picked her up and tried to explain that we want to avoid Children's Hospital, instead of going there every other week.  She dismissed me with her typical, "I want eat" and it was at this point I told Billy she would be promptly moving to the big girl bed.  Moving a 2 year old from a crib to a big girl bed is no small task, as it took a lot of rearranging and sing song voices about the wonderment of it all.  Faith sewed her a pillow with a giant "Z" on it, which was a motivating factor.  Who doesn't love having a homemade pillow?  I will admit the first night was uneventful, or so we thought, until we went in to check on her around 11 and found her on the floor.  Thankfully I had laid pillows down so her fall off the bed didn't even wake her up.  We tucked blankets in around her and she was successful the rest of the night.  Tonight she's got a bed rail in place to help teach her to stay centered, though at last check, I see we've got quite a ways to go. 

So the summer of 7 has dwindled down to 6.   Kids are moving around and growing up, all right before my very eyes.  I can't keep it from happening, so I jump into the current with both feet, even though I'd rather wade around where nothing is moving very fast.  What I want and what I have are two different things.  However, If I think about it for more than a few seconds, I know what I have is exactly what I have always desired.  My kids are becoming more independent.  They are learning to be secure in themselves even when they are afraid, and need to change their mind.   Most days they keep trying, even when they fall flat on their face.  No it's not unicorns and rainbows, but real life being lived out loud with a lot of laughter, sometimes tears, and the always present knowledge that we are never alone. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Gramma camp: Round 2.

The charm of a quiet house has worn off.  Now it's actually eerie, lonely, and just a little bit sad.  Two of my four children are almost 300 miles away, spending the week at "Gramma camp".  Thankfully the oldest and youngest child are still home with me, and oddly enough, just now when Jack informed me of his bathroom needs, I wasn't annoyed.  I should have been though.  Because he prides himself in the details.

I used to like traditions, but Gramma camp is becoming one tradition I'm not too sure about.  This is the second summer in a row that the kids spend about 5 days in Pagosa Springs, all without their mother to guide, protect, and remind them to  change their underwear.   Now that Jack is 14, he decided he'd rather stay home.   Instead of getting back to nature in the most beautiful part of Colorado, he's spending his 5 days playing with legos in a dark bedroom, or playing video games in a dark living room.  This boy might have rickets by the time he's 15 from a lack of Vitamin D if he's not careful.  My toddler also didn't stay at Gramma's this time around, due to the fact that she's only lived with us 4 months and might be a bit traumatized by another new environment.  One that occassionally has bats, mind you. 

So Faith and Will are away from our normal everyday boring lives.  They have "face-timed" me several times to let me know they haven't gotten rabies and they still have all 20 fingers and toes.  Another great thing about technology is Will has been able to show me how many horny toads or "lizards" he has caught.  You may remember last year when Will caught a horny toad and brought it home to Denver.  We got on line, like any good parents would do, and tried to find out how to take care of one of those suckers.  We quickly discovered that horny toads are endangered species, (also illegal to keep as pets ) and can only survive in captivity if you own a fire ant farm, where one toad needs to eat up to a million ants in a day.  Sadly, Will released his toad into the wild, and still gets a little mopey when we drive by the open space where Mace now resides.  I feel like Will has been in denial of last summers tragic turn of events, now that he has four more in his possession at Gramma Camp.  If those little toads make it all the way to Denver, we are going to have to have a serious appointment with a therapist.  (Two actually.  One for Will.  One for me)

I have two more days to relish this time with Jack and Little Sass. One thing I have noticed about a 14 year old and a 2 year old are their similarties.  They both want to eat all the time.  They both tell me when they have to use the bathroom.  They both have smelly feet.  Neither of them seem to care if I'm on the phone, and will talk to me as if their needs must be met immediately or else they will die. 

I would be completely lost without these two children home with me.  Having a 14 year old reminds me it's good to let go and allow my other kids the space to learn what life is about apart from Billy and I.  Having a 2 year old reminds me that life moves so fast and my other three kids are growing up so fast that every single second with my children counts.  For me, time with them is more valuable than gold. 

The other day Jack and Z were sitting on the sidewalk, just watching the world go by.  He was talking to her about life, and she just sat and listened to her new big brother without a care in the world.  I sat in the grass behind them, watching this miracle unfold.  Both of them tender and sweet--one who is willing to love sacrificially, and one who is willing to be loved despite the hurts that she has experienced in her tender little life.  I let this moment fill my soul with gratitude.   I soaked in the truth that Love is the only way to true healing in life for all of us, no matter what kind of hurts we carry on our journey.  The moment to sit and watch Love take place was so precious and warm.  And over really fast.  Right about the time I was wiping my tears away, certain that life could never be sweeter than that fleeting moment in time, both of them stood up and said, "nacks, Mom?"  This was my cue to serve them again.  And so I did.  And I will.  For as long as they call me Mom. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summer isn't just about getting the "meat sweats"

Hey Peeps—

The other day I was at the pool with all four of my children and I looked around wondering to myself, "Why isn't there a crown on my head? Or at least a tiara?"  Seriously, four kids in a huge body of water…nobody got kicked out, nobody pooped in the water, and everyone went home exhausted.  It was a complete success.  (With the exception of me accidentally spraying sunscreen directly in Faith's eyes.  I'm not using that stupid aerosol stuff ever again.  Ever.)

Summer sure isn't boring.  Yesterday all the kids and I piled into our car to do a little shopping.  Jack informed me that he didn't have any "hipster" clothes as he's moving into high school this fall.  Will also needed a new deck of cards for his new hobby (card shark), Faith asked for new flip flops, and last but not least, our toddler needed sippy cups, as we have decided to leave all her other brand new ones everywhere we go, rather than bring them home to re-use.  So, list in hand, we were off.  I also packed snacks, water, diapers, epi pens, among other items to help us survive if we became lost in the woods.  Or Supertarget. In the end we had 5 new hipster shirts, 3 decks of cards, 1 pair of flip flops, four bras (surprise purchase) and gum.  Can you say PRODUCTIVE?  I can, and I will.  In fact I just did.

Summer wouldn't be complete without our evening family bike rides.  I recently found a brand new bike trailer at a garage sale, and with that, the 6 of us can head out on the open road.  Fortunately for you, we actually only stick to the Dry Creek Trail that runs near our house.  Our loop is about 3.3 miles long, and we usually only have one catastrophe on the ride.  Last week Faith was sassy to Billy about not watching where she was going.  Seconds later, Will stopped short right in front of Billy as Billy plowed into Will.  As he fell onto our son, Billy thought to himself, " I am going to crush my son to death".  I was a ways back watching it all play out, calculating copays and family deductibles.  It was only seconds before they were both standing again, brushing themselves off unscathed.  It was at that point I laughed out loud, as watching people fall might just about be the funniest thing around.  Well, that, and watching a chimpanzee bathe a cat. 

As if our life wasn't exciting enough, this past weekend we got to spend the evening with my dad, who just turned 70.  I won't publish his name, in case he's angry I just announced his age, but if you are up for a guessing game, it rhymes with Mary Mockhart.  My dad and his wife Jane had us over for dinner along with one of our oldest and dearest friends, Roy Miller, and my brother Matt, who flew in from Ohio.  Our time visiting and telling stories was so much fun.  At one point Billy played my dad's guitar and we all sang along while he led us in "The streets of Laredo".  In my opinion, there's nothing better than a sing-a-long.   The kids didn't appreciate the song nearly as much as they appreciated the food.   My nephew Taylor, who is 21, announced at breakfast the next morning, that he got the "meat sweats" from all the food he ate.  He got up and ran 9 miles and as you might imagine, all the meat came back to bite him.  My only regret were all the deviled eggs I ate.  They always seem like such a good idea at the time.

And so the lazy days of summer pass by at warp speed.  I am trying to appreciate the quiet time spent at home, with the kids never more than a few feet away.  My mid-50 year old friends remind me that someday I'll be sad when these days are gone.  I try to remember that when I’m hot and sweaty, with a 2 year old in my lap and an 9 year old showing me "just one more card trick, please mom?"  Truly these days will be some of the very best of my life.  The ordinary days where we get up late, have no agenda for the day, and ride our bikes together in the coolness of the evening—these will be what I hold dearest in my heart. 

The kids and I heard a new song on K-Love the other day that put into words exactly how I feel about this season of life.  The song's message is a challenge to live more than an ordinary life.  We are not called to survive, but rather to THRIVE!  With" Joy unspeakable, Faith unsinkable, Love unstoppable, Anything is possible "!  Sure, life doesn't always deal us the hand we think we deserve.  We feel lost, angry, let down.  All we do is wake up and do the same thing every day.  Survive today, keep your expectations low, and you won't be disappointed.  Or maybe not.  Maybe we can look around and see the ordinary day in and day out as something more.  What if on the days when my toddler is throwing a fit, and my 14 year old is complaining that he's bored, I could see them as God's sweet gifts to me, rather than be frustrated by the circumstances.  What if I saw our hardships as momentary, and sensed the bigger purpose in my life at work? I bet I'd grumble less, and hug more.  I might even wake up happy and speak kindly before 10 am.  And maybe while I'm cleaning my house and feeding my babies, I'd whisper words of thanksgiving to God, for another chance to be fully alive.  Today I'm thankful that He reminds me what it means to thrive! 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Holding steady at 7...

Hey Peeps—

Every June, it's the same thing.  I think to myself, as I look into the yard and see the flowers blooming vibrantly, and the children running footloose and fancy free,  "I hope Will doesn’t lose a toenail this summer".  The first time it was almost traumatizing.  Now it's the same ole, "Stop your bleeding everywhere Will.  Run in and get Mama the Neosporin (my "go to" medicine) and the bandaids".   He doesn't even cry anymore.  I think his toe nubs are numb.  (Also, I don’t think you will find the word "nub" in any medical dictionary.).  

So yeah, summer is here with a vengeance.  I like it.  Except the part where I am dead exhausted by 8:00 every night and can't keep my eyes open.  I'm working a little, but mostly staying home.  Ironically, being a mom is actually about a gazillion times harder than when I go to work as a nurse.  And this summer I did something I've never done before.  No, I didn't start smoking pot.  I got a baby pool.  Not one of those tiny ones either.  It's the kind that totally kills a huge portion of your grass after one day's use.  I decided now that we have four kids, one being two years old, I can't be out and about using my friend's pool all summer long like I have in the past.  Just getting sunscreen on all the kids makes me tired.  Now we have all the time in the world to lube up in the yard not to mention easy access to snacks and drinks.  (No glass bottles though) The kids can trash up the yard and go inside to shower all in a matter of minutes, as I shout commands to them such as, "leave your towels on the deck, so you can use it tomorrow!" and "put the clothes in the dryer as you head up to your shower".  All the kids like the pool a lot, but mostly little Miss Sassy Pants.  She's yet to get in past her tummy, but she's spent about four hours standing in the water squealing with delight, as her siblings shoot water into each other's face at a very close range. 

Having 7 people living under one roof is not as much exciting as it is action packed.  Just this morning Billy informed me that he's going to start a "cleanse" in order to prepare for a race he is doing in September.  Whatever happened to keeping a little mystery in a relationship?  And the kids, life is full for them too.  Every night they pace the sidewalk, like caged lions impatiently waiting for Taylor, their 21 year old cousin.  When he arrives they cheer for joy, as if life can finally begin at 6:30 pm.  They proceed to play Frisbee or some other sport that involves hitting the neighbor's cars with flying objects, and after that gets old, they promenade into the house to watch episodes of some weird show that I hate, or they all go into the basement to listen to Taylor's music.  Now they all walk around the house singing stuff like "Radioactive" while I'm left to wonder if the lyrics are going to scar their little innocent hearts. 

And just because I'm the kind of mom that doesn't want to lose touch with my sweet kids,  in a couple days I'm taking Faith to California for a girl's weekend.  My sister will meet us there, with one of her girls, and we'll meet up with some of my girl cousins who live near where we are going.  We will all attend a women's conference, to hear my all time favorite Bible teacher Beth Moore.  There will be awesome music and lots of laughs, and more than just a few memories made.  Most of all, Faith and I will have had a weekend together to always remember.  We've picked all our favorite outfits, and tomorrow we will paint our toenails nice and fancy.  By the time we fly out, I'll have a list a mile long for Billy to get done, as well as strict rules.  Rule Number 1. Don't sit on the couch in your underwear.  And if you chose to break this rule, please don't proudly text me a picture of the three of you in your skivvies.  On my couch. 

The only thing I hate about going away on a girl's get-a-way, is leaving the rest of my family behind, including our other girl, who is only 2, and not ready to fly without her daddy to help me.  It's only a few days, and no, I don't plan on doing any of the "ugly cry" when I tell Billy goodbye.  However, I will be thrilled to be back home, all of us under the same small roof once again. 

Life's a mystery, and no one can know what tomorrow will bring.  There's risk in everything.  But I refuse to live as one who is too afraid to experience abundant life.  Today on a walk I saw God's handiwork all around me.  Tomorrow I will see it from 30,000 feet.  Faith will strain to see the world below, wondering how it can all look so small.  I will look at her, and wonder how time can go by so fast.  I will cherish the present, and choose to not worry about the future.  I will smile and laugh, and enjoy the moment.  And when I close my eyes, I will pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the rest of my family, knowing they are covered by God's ever present hand too, even a thousand miles apart.  God is good.  All the time.